It takes a special brand of athlete to battle it out on the wheelchair basketball court and Alberta appears to have found a fine bunch.
Team Alberta moved to 3-0 at the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer with an impressive and hard-fought win 59-54 over Ontario Monday.
“I liked our discipline. (Ontario) is a very physical team, if you watched at the beginning of the game I was all over the ref. They have good chair skills and we needed to be disciplined,” said Alberta coach Darrell Nordell.
“Little bit of composure in the second half. We had our eyes up and we looked around, that really helped us. Great bunch of young kids they’re talented.”
WHAT. A. GAME. 🔥
— WheelchairBballCAN (@WCBballCanada) February 19, 2019
Alberta won their first two games of the tournament on Sunday and are quickly becoming favourites of the Red Deer faithful. After winning the Canadian Championships in March, Alberta is also the top seed in at the Games and are showing why.
“We won the national championships last year, so coming in as the number one seed, everyone is coming at us,” added the head coach.
“We knew we had to practice hard ever since we won that national championship back in March.”
Brother and sister duo Bradon and Jayna Doll are two big pieces of the success for Alberta so far. Bradon and Jayna are both able-bodied players and took up the sport to support their older sister Mackenzie, who has spina bifida. They both got hooked on the game and Bradon is now in his third Canada Winter Games. It’s the first for Jayna.
“I love the atmosphere, the guys we were pushing against we’ve seen before and some of them, we’re pretty close friends. As much as it’s a competition it’s still friendly out there. It’s all high-fives in the end,” Bradon said.
“I like that you can go out there push hard against your friends but at the end of the day you’re happy and had fun.”
— Byron Hackett (@RDAbyronhackett) February 19, 2019
Bradon poured in a game-high 29 points Monday and his sister chipped in 10. He noted the experience at the games this year has been ramped up with home court advantage, but so far they have welcomed the challenge.
“There’s a larger atmosphere. There’s so much weight on our shoulders and expectation, but we’ve got a good crew and we’ve trained hard and we’re ready to compete,” he said.
Fan support has also been huge at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre and the crowd once again throwing their support behind Alberta on Monday. Nordell said that’s vital to grow the sport across Canada.
“What I have found, especially those young kids coming down, anyone that gets exposed to the game is coming back and that’s how we grow the game in Canada,” he said.
“It’s a great game and it’s an integrated sport…it’s a way to have inclusion.”
Alberta plays Tuesday afternoon at 1 p.m. against Nova Scotia at the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre.